June 14, 2005--Employees are standing up to muscle pain on the job, a new study reports, with a majority of workers preferring to spend at least part of the day on their feet.
The study, an online survey conducted by Workrite Ergonomics, is based upon the answers of more than 500 employees. More than half of the workers reported sitting at their desk for six or more hours each day, and nearly 90% of respondents reported feeling muscle aches and pains at the end of office hours.
Bill Marris, professor and director of Ohio State University's Biodynamics Laboratory, said that employees need variation between extended periods of either sitting or standing. Long periods of sitting increases pressure on an employee's back, while an extended time spent standing increases muscle fatigue.
Employers can improve their employees' comfort and health by providing sit-stand workstations. An employer can either provide a standing-height desk with a tall chair or a desk that can adjust to both sitting and standing heights. Offering sit-stand workstations can help employers increase worker productivity and decrease health care costs, said Tom Aldrin, a certified ergonomist and professional engineer. The variation in movement increases blood flow, which makes employees more alert, and it also prevents occurrences of muscle injuries, which lowers potential health care expenses.
Aldrin said sit-stand workstations are especially helpful for new or fast-growing businesses.
"People tend to work long hours, and sit-stand workstations can help them tolerate that," he said. "You can't afford to lose some of your key people, so you want to do everything you can to keep them as healthy and as comfortable as possible."
Despite the benefits of sit-stand workstations to employers, Marris said very few companies offer them to their workers. He said employers need to understand that spending more on sit-stand workstations will help them boost their bottom line in the end.
"You have to fight this through the pocketbooks," he said. "It opens peoples' eyes when they realize that there are cost justifications. [Employees] will produce higher quality products and services as a result of the change."